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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 20, 2007

Furious Ferguson brands Lille 'a disgrace'

Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Lille coach Claude Puel 'a disgrace' after the Frenchman tried to haul his team off the pitch during their 1-0 Champions League loss to Manchester United in Lens tonight.

Puel was furious that Ryan Giggs' 83rd minute match-winner was allowed to stand after the Welshman fired a quick free kick into the top corner when Lille keeper Tony Silva was still lining up his wall.

The home players surrounded Dutch referee Eric Braamhaar to voice their protests and when play stopped, they were called to the touchline by goalkeeping coach Jean Noel Duse.

At that stage, it appeared Lille would try to get the game abandoned but with Ferguson calling for his own team to continue the game, common sense prevailed and both sides played on.

'I have never seen anything like that in football,' said Ferguson. 'I cannot understand it. It was a disgrace.

'It created a hostile atmosphere. Gary Neville was struck by an object thrown from the side of the pitch and all sorts of objects were thrown at our bench. It should not be allowed.

'I have seen a lot of bad behaviour in football. It is an emotional game. But usually everything settles down the next day. I have never seen anything like this. It creates an intimidating environment and it was wrong.

'I do not know who was responsible.

'It's not my concern. I was just wanting my players to try and score a second goal as the Lille players ran off the pitch.'

Ferguson pointing out that Giggs' strike was similar to the Thierry Henry effort against Chelsea in the Premiership a couple of years ago.

The United boss admitted the officials had not spoken to his team before the game but insisted it didn't matter.

'You look to the referee to get an indication as to whether he will allow the free-kick to be taken,' said Ferguson.

'Ryan asked if he could take it; the referee moved away and that is it as far as I'm concerned.'

Neville left the stadium with a gash on his face, although it is not known whether that was the result of the object thrown at him.

Edwin Van der Sar did suffer double vision as a result of the tear gas fired into the visiting section of the crowd during the opening period.

Officials from both UEFA and United will be anxious to determine the reason for the apparent crush at the front of the section which led to a disturbance that riot police tried to sort out in a most inappropriate manner.

If, as has been reported, officials took the decision to open the stand to supporters who did not have valid tickets for the area, then Europe's governing body will be forced to take action over what could have been a chilling reminder of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.

On that occasion 96 fans died. Tonight no one was hurt, although for a couple of minutes a tragedy seemed set to unfold.

Understandably perhaps, Puel was anxious to play down his own team's conduct although he did admit tempers had reached boiling point not only as a result of Giggs' goal but also an effort from Peter Odemwingie which was disallowed while the scores were still level.

'There were two dubious decisions during the game we could've well done without,' said Puel.

'We had had one goal disallowed and then a free-kick like that. It was a real shame. We didn't deserve that.

'I would like to underline the fact that the players never intended to leave the field. In France, our way of expressing our complaint is when the ball next goes out of play.'

Puel responded to Ferguson's attack with some critical comments of his own.

'I have heard this before from Sir Alex Ferguson because he likes to influence the referee. He is trying to create a situation.

'Of course, we are very disappointed because I would prefer to talk about football.'